Rep. Todd Akin slightly softened his steadfast refusal to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race in a pair of television appearances Wednesday, amid heavy pressure from the Republican Party for him to step aside after he said women rarely get pregnant as a result of "legitimate" rape.
On ABC's "Good Morning America," host George Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Akin whether he would stay in the race beyond a Sept. 25 deadline even if it looked like he would lose and possibly cost the Republicans control of the Senate.
"I'm never going to say everything that could possibly happen," Mr. Akin said. "I don't know the future."
Still, he added, "The party voters took a look at our hearts, understood who we were, had a chance to meet us in many, many different ways and made a decision. And it makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs as opposed to the election process."
Appearing on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday morning, Mr. Akin said Rep. Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, had called him and asked him to step aside.
"He advised me that it would be good for me to step down," Mr. Akin said. "I told him that I was going to be looking at this very seriously, trying to weigh all the different points on this."
But as on Good Morning America, Mr. Akin reaffirmed his intent to stay in for now. "It's not about me. It's about doing the right thing and standing on principle," he said.
Mr. Ryan, in an impromptu conversation with reporters on his campaign airplane Wednesday, confirmed that he had talked to Mr. Akin but said he had "no plans" to press Mr. Akin further when he travels to Missouri for campaign appearances Thursday.
Mr. Akin defeated two other Republican candidates in an Aug. 7 Republican primary, winning the right to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.). If he withdraws, his replacement would be selected by the Missouri GOP's central committee.
Mr. Akin has come under heavy criticism after comments he made when a St. Louis television station asked him Sunday whether he favors allowing abortion in the case of rape.
"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Mr. Akin told the station. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Amid the firestorm over his remarks, Republican leaders have largely concluded Mr. Akin can't defeat Sen. McCaskill, a dramatic turnaround in a race that is considered a must-win for Republicans to take control of the Senate. Democrats hold a 53-47 Senate majority.
Wednesday's appearances mark a shift from the previous two days, when Mr. Akin appeared only on conservative radio programs and sounded more definitive about staying in the race.
He told radio host Dana Loesch on Tuesday, for example, "I think we need to take this battle forward and define and defend Americaâ¦We are not getting out of this race. I'm in this race for the long haul."â"Janet Hook contributed to this article.
Write to Naftali Bendavid at email@example.com